BEIRUT, Lebanon – Lasting and sustainable peace can only be attained through peaceful means, said the founder and president of a Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) partner organization in Lebanon.
As violence continues in Syria, there are heightened fears that violence will spill over the borders into Lebanon.
“Any war, anytime, anywhere,” ends with “mutual defeat,” said Fadi Abi Allam, president of Permanent Peace Movement (PPM). “There are no winners. The end is just a point where we have to count the losses and the victims.”
Lebanon, he explained, is a country that has a history of resolving conflict through war and violence. The population of about four million is divided along ethnic and religious lines. In addition to internal tensions, people are also influenced by violence and conflicts in the region.
MCC has issued an appeal for $500,000 and relief kits to assist PPM and other partner organizations in the Middle East as they provide humanitarian aid to people affected by conflict and build peace at the community level.
In Lebanon, these contributions enable PPM to promote a culture of peace through organizing and coordinating more peace building and conflict resolution activities. Some of the new activities will encourage dialogue among youth leaders of different political parties and train journalists on how they can use the media to promote peace.
“How can we live with our differences is the big question,” said Abi Allam. “The hope for Lebanon is peace, but peace is more than a goal, it is more than an end – it is a way of life.”
Abi Allam has experienced firsthand the horrors of war and violence. He was a teenager in the 1980s when his village was set on fire during the Lebanese civil war, leaving his family and other villagers as internally displaced people.
Instead of joining a militia group, his “revenge,” he said, was starting a peace group with about 30 other university students who shared a common vision that conflict cannot be resolved through violence.
This peace group has evolved into PPM, an organization that works on building peace in Lebanon and the region through trainings on peace building, conflict resolution and conflict prevention. Over the years, the organization has grown to a staff of 10 full-time and five part-time people.
In 2004, MCC sponsored Abi Allam to participate in Eastern Mennonite University’s Summer Peacebuilding Institute (SPI) in Harrisonburg, Va. Training materials and training methods used by PPM, he explained, are based largely on what he learned at SPI. Two other staff members have also participated in the SPI program.
“Peace is something we can reach even if we are living in a very complicated situation,” said Abi Allam. “Peace is everyone’s responsibility. The greatest conclusion for us is that nobody can do everything for peace and nobody can say ‘I can do nothing.’”
Gladys Terichow is a writer for MCC Canada. With files from MCC Lebanon.